Commentary

Music Industry Lobbies Trump About Search Engines, Domain Registries

Last week, the newspaper industry took its long-running battle with Google directly to President-elect Donald Trump. This week, it's the music industry's turn.

"Strong protection for intellectual property rights will assure growth in both creativity and technology, benefiting the American economy as a whole," the Recording Industry Association of America and 18 other organizations wrote in a letter to the next president.

The RIAA told Trump that search engines, domain registries and platforms that allow users to upload content "weaken intellectual property rights for America’s creators by exploiting legal loopholes."

"Surely the world’s most sophisticated technology corporations can do better -- by helping to prevent illegal access and paying fair market value for music with prices set by or based on the free market," the RIAA says.

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Like the News Media Alliance, the music organizations don't spell out what new laws they'd like to see. But earlier this year, the RIAA -- which has long complained that Google should take a more aggressive approach to policing piracy -- began a new push to revise the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Currently, the DMCA protects Web platforms from liability when people upload infringing material, provided that the platforms take down a pirated video or music clip in response to a specific complaint. But Web companies don't have to proactively prevent different people from uploading the same material. Web platforms also don't have to scour their sites to identify and remove copies that the owner didn't flag. The RIAA wants that system changed.

"There are 100 copies of a song. We can’t just say to YouTube “we didn’t license this Pharrell song, take it down,” RIAA head Cary Sherman told Recode in April. "They will not just take down all 100 copies. They’ll take down only the one file that we’ve identified."

This is hardly the first time the RIAA has sought to change copyright law. Five years ago, the RIAA and movie studios lobbied lawmakers to pass the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act -- a bill that provided for court orders banning Google and other search engines from returning links to "rogue" piracy sites. That bill was shelved after protests by tech companies and consumers.

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